Not Your Average Girls Trip
By Meagan McElya
When most women plan a getaway with their girlfriends, the first destinations that come to mind are usually associated with tropical drinks or poker chips. But this group…this group of eight ladies from Texas could never come close to being like “most women.”
Let’s start with the fact that we hardly knew each other when this whole thing started. We were a diverse group consisting of childhood friends, professional colleagues, and in my case, a mother/daughter pair. Having never visited South Africa, I was so excited when I received an invite from Monica and eager to experience such a new and exciting destination not only with my mom, Michelle, but with some of the coolest chicks I had just met that same day over our first glasses of wine at the Houston airport.
Monica, by far the most seasoned traveler to South Africa, kindly leveraged her personal relationships to coordinate travel itinerary, lodging, professional hunting services, photo safari locations, shopping sprees, you name it. She did a wonderful job creating an enjoyable trip for both groups: The ladies who were hunting, and the ladies who were strictly wanting to enjoy some R&R while capturing photos on safari. You see, not all of us are hunters. And that wasn’t a bad thing! It actually provided a great opportunity for sharing knowledge and having an open dialogue about conservation efforts and how the hunting experience was so much more than just the harvest of an animal. I just so happened to be on the trip for both reasons and had absolutely no idea at the time how fulfilling and exciting that would be.
With swollen ankles and a hankering for a large glass of wine, we stepped off of the final flight into the Port Elizabeth airport. Walking through the arrival gate, we met up with our professional hunters, Juan, Ashley and Rudolph (Rudy), whose South African accents (and toned, tanned legs) were about the warmest welcome a group of ladies could ask for. We loaded our things into the back of each of their vehicles, and our caravan headed to the first destination: Africano Country Estate in Addo.
To break up the commute, Juan had made plans to drive through Addo Elephant National Park, the third-largest national park in South Africa. I was in awe of how beautiful and unique they were. I’d have to say that my favorite was the surprisingly photogenic male warthog who decided to stop mid-stroll for a drink just as we pulled past him, almost posing for the camera.
I’m sure Rudy will tell you how I asked him about the agriculture industry as we traveled from one area to the next. I was fascinated by how similar some of the growing environments were to those that I had experienced back in Texas. Citrus fields were present up to the driveway of the Africano Country Estate, where we arrived just before sunset to settle in for a relaxing night of enjoying dinner and the company of new friends. The suites at the estate were breathtaking, featuring a large outdoor shower and a twinkling, starlight ceiling right above the bed.
That evening we mingled and exchanged stories over a gourmet meal of various sushi dishes and, of course, a few bottles of wine. And when I say a few, I mean we kept them coming to the table until we lost count. This created the perfect environment for loads of laughter and almost instant new-found friendships. After ordering a nightcap to enjoy by the fire, we all returned to our suites for the evening, excited about the plans Juan had shared with us for the days ahead.
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